Illinois has a budget! Hooray!
Yes, that’s a strange way to begin a preview of a horse race…but it’s apt. Hawthorne’s stakes schedule last year had been pared down to just the Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity and the Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante, races that virtually must go on because breeders pay into them when Illinois-breds are just foals. But, with a state budget back in place, the Illinois Department of Agriculture released a pot of purse subsidy money — just in time for Hawthorne to restore its stakes schedule back to something on its previous scale.
The stakes portion of this fall’s meet begins with the Hawthorne Derby, a nine-furlong grass race for three-year-olds. The Hawthorne Derby was last run in 2015; it was previously Grade 3, but became ineligible for grading after not being run in 2014 and 2016. Still, it drew a competitive field of eleven sophomore turf horses to contend for a $100,000 purse.